She tried to call him on his cell phone, but he didn’t answer. It was 4:30 Friday afternoon. She tried again, no answer.
An old familiar sick feeling swept over her.
Emily pinched her eyes closed, trying to ignore the tidal wave that had just crashed down on top of her. She dialed the number to his desk phone. With a lump in her throat and a heart pounding, she waited. Dennis picked up after two rings.
“I’ve been calling you. Why didn’t you pick up?” She was doing her best to sound calm.
His stomach dropped. He looked down at his phone. “Sweetie, I don’t show any missed calls.” He braced himself.
Talk about bad timing. He was heading to South Carolina on business the following Tuesday and still had so much to do to get ready. He had been planning on leaving the office around 6 p.m. But now, who knew when he’d get out of there? This could take hours. Even worse, it could ruin their weekend together.

When I don’t Answer the Phone, it takes Her Back to the Past

Dennis also knew that this was an ordeal of his own doing. He settled in for the process. He reminded himself, “This takes her right back to when she couldn’t reach me before. She thinks I’m involved with another woman again.”

Be Humble and Patient

Instead of accusing Emily of overreacting and throwing up his hands, he sat and pondered the reasons her worries were justified. He coached himself through it: “I need to be humble and patient. Eventually the truth will win and she’ll know that I haven’t gone off track. But right now she’s upset, she’s doubtful.” He also reminded himself what he’d been reading in Philippians: “Don’t worry. Pray. God will provide what’s needed.”
“I can’t explain why the call didn’t go through,” Dennis explained, “but… I’m sorry you have to feel this way because of my old behaviors.”
“I was doing fine,” Emily said. “But now I can’t stop shaking.”
“Oh, Sweetie,” he said and cried for her, and for what he’d put her through.

Show Up and Be There for Her

Later he thought, “I’ve spent three years in therapy trying to get to where I can do that: open up, try to understand where her feelings come from, receive them. Mark’s been reminding me that for our relationship to heal, I need to show up so that she has someone who’s THERE to bond to. No matter where we are, even if it’s painful, if we’re there together and, there’s understanding and closeness, we’re still connected. And that’s what matters most, being together through it all. If I hang in there and stay with it, we can get to the point where that closeness matters even more — and carries more weigh — than all the hell I’ve put her through.”
They talked for 45 minutes.

Stay Tender and Connected

Later, they spent the whole evening together and had a good time.
In bed, with the lights off, Emily reflected on their call, “It made a big difference, the way you handled it when I called. You didn’t get upset. You didn’t raise your voice. You didn’t defend yourself.” During the call she could tell that he stayed tender and connected to her throughout. When his voice cracked and she knew how distraught he was over it, she’d realized that she wasn’t going through it alone. She didn’t have to go through that hell alone anymore. “If you can keep reacting this way, we’ll keep working through whatever comes up. We’ll make it.”
Hearing Emily say that meant more to Dennis than anything. “We will make it,” he promised. “No matter what comes up, we’ll work through it together.”

© 2014 Mark Chamberlain